“The woman is the foundation on which nations are built. She is the heart of her nation. If that heart is weak, the people are weak. If her heart is strong and her mind is clear, then the nation is strong and knows its purpose. The woman is the center of everything.”
Ojibwe elder and spiritual leader
For the People: Teachings on the Natural Way
Since that fateful day in 2008 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my community of women has expanded exponentially. Maybe it’s because I am an only child: my girlfriends have always been my sacred sisters. They’re a hoot… hilarious, revealing, nurturing, safe, and through them, I find peace and healing energy. Some of my girls have been around since grade school… others I just picked up through work and travel… even on Facebook. While there is no doubt I love men, there’s no place I’d rather be than hanging with my girls.
These days, many of the women I meet are beautiful and courageous souls on the breast cancer journey to wellness. They’re coming into my life almost daily now, sent by doctors, friends, and nurses. Even friends of friends direct the shell-shocked women in their life to me, Positively Pat, for information about oncologists, plastic surgeons, chemo, wigs, and more. I usually can’t help myself, so I also dish out encouragement, hope, and inspiration along with patient-to-patient tips and advice based on my personal experiences during treatment. In 2010, I ended up with twenty new BFFs, coming together in Miami to create the breast cancer support group Link of Hope Sistas. Women helping women. It’s where I flourish.
Yes… I’m a girlfriend’s girlfriend, which is why, in the midst of a busy, crazy schedule, I hopped on a plane to California to speak at Campowerment, a three-day/three-night sleepaway Malibu camp/retreat for grown-up women. The weekends are designed to help overworked, stressed-out women totally disconnect from life and responsibilities, while giving them time to reconnect with themselves and a sisterhood, all of whom are also juggling the demands of a ridiculously hectic life. The setting was perfect: a beautiful bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I chilled in front of the campfire in my sweats and laughed till my sides hurt with 60 women, most who didn’t know each other on Thursday when we arrived. By Sunday morning, after flying off zip lines (or not) and facing fears from the top of a 35-foot telephone pole (Leap of Faith)… while doing yoga, dancing, meditating, and playing Color War games with these women… magic happened. Maybe it was because we knew our days without cell phones and computers and makeup were almost over. Maybe it was because no one was demanding our attention. We were just taking care of ourselves and just being… taking life in… playing, chilling, and partying while roasting marshmallows and singing James Taylor songs around the campfire. We were healing, connecting, and being validated as we shared secrets, struggles, and stories with strangers who seemed to care. I connected with so many women on so many levels that weekend… women ages 20 to 70 who came to Malibu as strangers and left three days later as sisters.
I hosted interactive workshops aptly named “Joy in the Midst of Turmoil.” I shared the details of my dance with cancer, my breast cancer journey, urging these women to embrace whatever their challenge with strength, trust, peace, and joy. We have no control over the events that sometimes take over our lives, but we do have control over how we respond to them and how we live our lives moving forward.
Some asked how they could possibly find joy in the midst of the some of the awful things happening in their lives. We’re not robots. Sometimes the rock we feel like we’re pushing uphill seems bigger. Give yourself permission to feel the brutal pain, grief, and sadness for a minute or two, but don’t pitch a tent in that place. That was my advice, though I don’t always take it myself (but I try). I aim to let the emotions come up for a while and then push to move past them. Quickly. That helps me get to joy much faster. When I get to other side I remind myself to bring along the blessings, lessons, and wisdom gained during my brief visit to fear, sadness, or worry, and then… joy takes center stage.
One evening an old man told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.
“One is Evil – It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
“The other is Good – It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”
The old man simply replied, “The one you feed.”
The trip reminded me why I need to feed my soul with girlfriend juju. There’s a global sisterhood that we’re all a part of… no matter who we are, where we live, what we do. We are all, at the core, the same. When we open ourselves and our hearts to connect with other women… healing happens, and life takes a more purposeful and joyful course.
I am woman. I am proud. Dance on…….